Teachers of private schools oppose poll duties in Bombay High Court

Mumbai: Claiming that the ‘future prospects’ of students are at stake, teachers of private unaided schools have moved the Bombay High Court against ‘directives’ of the State Election Commission (SEC). The teachers from over 200 schools have challenged the communication of election officers, directing them to perform election duties for the Lok Sabha polls.

The teachers apprehend that the authorities might take coercive action against them if they do not perform election duties and thus have petitioned a bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Manoj Sanklecha. The bench has posted the matter for hearing in the next week.

These teachers have approached the bench through their association – Unaided School’s Forum. In their petition, the teachers claimed that the SEC and its authorised election officers at Thane, Vidyavihar, Borivli and Bandra, are insisting upon these private schools to send information regarding the number of teaching and non-teaching staff, they are going to deploy for election duties.

“We challenge the requisition orders of authorities asking us to send information regarding our staff (teaching and non-teaching) for the purpose of non-teaching function of election duties for conducting Lok Sabha polls,” the petition reads. The teachers claimed that these authorities have threatened to register a First Information Report (FIR) against them, if they do not oblige to their directives.

“We apprehend that action will be initiated against us for not obliging to their requisition,” the plea reads.It further adds that deputing teachers ‘adversely’ affects the academic, teaching schedule and ‘prospects of students’ who are the ‘future of the nation.’

“Any action against teachers violates the right of students, as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This violation will result in depriving students of their right to education and an opportunity to achieve their goals,” the teachers claimed.

As most of these schools are following the Indian Certificate for Secondary Education (ICSE) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) boards, they claimed that their schedule for the entire year will be affected due to these poll duties.

“Most of our schools will start their academic year from March-end. If management is forced to send its staff for poll duties then students will be at a loss as the entire year’s schedule is fixed by the board. Teachers and students will not have sufficient time to cover up the syllabus and students will lag behind,” the teachers claimed in their petition.

The teachers further claimed that they are not covered under Representation of People Act, which mandates central or state government employees to perform election duties.  “We are not covered under this section of employees as our schools are not funded or controlled either by the central or state governments,” the plea contends.

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